Synopsis: My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult is one of the premier industrial dance bands. Formed in the late ‘80s as a film project that mutated into a rock band, it’s only natural that TKK’s visuals would pack the same powerful punch as their music! Featuring ten music videos, 9 songs filmed live in concert and a lengthy trailer containing footage from the still unreleased Thrill Kill Kult movie!
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult: The Kult Kollection 7.25
eyelights: the band’s mixture of dance flavours and metal/industrial themes.
eyesores: the ridiculously poor quality of the videos. the repetition of the music.
‘The Kult Kollection’ is a 2004 DVD compilation of My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult’s official videos and EPKs, as well as some live clips. It’s a disc that I’ve only seen the one time, when I found it and purchased it in a local second hand shop in the mid-’00s.
I’ve never seen it since, and have been rather curious about it. The only thing that has deterred me from watching it is its packaging, which looks like crap, and the mixed feelings that I have about the band’s music.
Frankly, I know very little about this industrial/alternative dance band, self-proclaimed as America’s most dangerous cult (as imbedded in the lyrics to their song “X-Communication”, and promoted everywhere).
Formed and fronted by Buzz McCoy and Groovie Mann in 1987, and featuring a rotating list of other musicians ever since, they were label mates with industrial icons such as Ministry and KMFDM – with whom they have also toured.
The name of the band comes from a movie that McCoy and Mann had planned to make together. They never made it, but the music they composed for it was the seed of their band’s sound, which they decided to pursue under that moniker.
TKK (as they are sometimes branded) have released 11 studio albums thus far, plus a bunch of singles, EPs and remix collections. A controversial band, they have drawn the ire of parent and religious groups for their imagery and live shows.
Personally, I first discovered them with the release of ‘The Crow‘. They were briefly shown performing a track in one scene and they had one of the soundtrack’s better cuts, “After the Flesh”, a reworking of a previous track, “Nervous Xians”.
I later found them on the satisfying, but incredibly discrepant soundtrack, to ‘Showgirls‘. Their tracks were also noteworthy, so I started to pay attention to them, all the while seeing their albums floating around the local music stores.
But it wouldn’t be until I got a gig at one of the local community radio stations that I would dare to pick up their music: their B movie-inspired covers and song titles were slightly off-putting to me. It felt cheap, unpalatable.
However, the station had at least a couple of their albums, ‘Hit and Run Holiday’ and ‘Sexplosion!’ (arguably their most well-known title), and proceeded to copy them the moment that I could. I really wanted to hear more.
I wasn’t terribly impressed, truth be told: the edgy sound I was familiar with via the movie soundtracks was replaced by a dancier, sometimes psychedelic vibe. It was interesting, but sadly not what I was hoping for.
It didn’t stop me from picking up a few of their albums when one of the edgier local second-hand stores got them. I figured that, for the price I was paying, it was well-worth exploring a bit more. Who knows what I would find?
Ultimately, I fell in love with some of their albums and ended up picking up their new releases until about the mid-’00s, when they somehow fell off my radar. And so it was that, when I saw this DVD, I felt compelled to pick it up as well.
Having said this, I’m only a minor fan of the band: not only did I wait a long time to get to it, but I also decided to watch the programme in a couple of shots, in order to not be overwhelmed with TKK’s grindhouse goodness.
(Nota bene: I subjectively rated the songs and videos separately, in the following format: song/video)
1. Intro “Gateway To Hell”: This 30-second opener consists of quick flashes of various images and a newscaster-like intro to the band. It’s nothing special, but it works, for what it is. 7.0
2. …And This is What the Devil Does!: The opening number of the second side of TKK’s debut album, ‘I See Good Spirits and I See Bad Spirits’, this old-school industrial number is comprised of a dance beat, driven by synth and bass and has operatic elements to it. Mann’s vocals are distorted, lost in mix. It’s good, but not great.
The video consists of quick cuts of disparate urban sights, including shots of a running nun, a bleached blonde, crucifixes, and a woman on the bus, plus shots of Mann, sitting at a desk, singing into a mic. Meh. It was low budget and it was 1988 – not a good mix. 7.5/7.0
3. Kooler Than Jesus: This non-album single was released in 1989, between TKK’s first and second album. It’s also backed by dance beats and bass, but it adds some guitar riffs and some processed soul vocals. ‘s alright.
The video consists of flash cuts of religious images, iconography, scrolling text/lyrics and live footage of the band all in black leather. There are also shots of Mann singing. At the end, the images turn to negative images, and strobe light effects contribute further to the video’s ADD quality. 7.0/7.0
4. Sex On Wheelz: The band’s fifth single is taken from their third album, ‘Sexplosion!’. It’s a groovier, bass-driven affair over a dance beat. There are also some mild guitar riffs, horns, keyboards and distorted male and female vocals.
The video for it is really just TKK performing, with a few girls posing and some psychedelic images. It’s kind of reminiscent of Niagara’s “J’ai vu” and “Psychotrope” videos but less good, made on a cheaper budget and with less skill. 6.75/5.0
5. Sexplosion!: The band’s fourth single is a house-tinged music track that starts with lots of breathing/moaning, a male voice repetitively saying “sex” and then a James Bond horn section, before kicking into it. This time, Mann serves up softer vocals than usual on what is a loungier number featuring an occasional guitar riff.
The video is grainy, black and white live footage with lots of cuts. It’s basically a mix of concert, party, bondage gear, and theatricality. Nothing super special. At least, not in my book. 6.0/7.0
6. The International Sin Set: Holy smack! A third video from the same album! This B&D-themed number is all beats, bass, horns and female vocals. Mann joins in for the chorus, raps at the bridge and there are some funky wah wah guitars.
This cheap, lazy-looking video consists of plastic dolls in bondage, role-playing, and doing a concert as TKK. It’s mixed together with some actual concert footage. Crappy stuff. 6.0/4.0
7. TKK Promo: This two-minute EPK starts with the sounds of a girl calling her mom on the phone and is backed by a few TKK songs. It shows behind the scenes stuff, a newscaster talking about the band, a two-line bio, live footage, and home videos. Brief, disparate, it’s intriguing, but not really satisfying. 6.0
8. Blue Buddha: The main single for the band’s 1993 album ’13 Above the Night’, this dance number, featuring female and male vocals starts with a bass groove and gets down with some horn bursts. But I find it kind of boring, truth be told.
The video looks professionally-made, for once. It’s low budget, but it features nice photography and lighting. It’s a on a small candlelit set, with both singers performing and with inserts of a bi-racial couple making slow love, as well as a redhead with a few men. There’s also lots of footage from other media. 6.0/7.0
9. Glamour is a Rocky Road: The single for 1995’s ‘Hit and Run Holiday’ is inspired by late ’60s pop and late ’80s dance (does that make it psychedelic dance?). The lyrics are S&M-themed: “Then he hit me, and it felt like a kiss”.
The video is nothing but some b+w concert footage. That, and the song, are pretty boring stuff. 5.0/5.0
10. Dope Doll Jungle: Taken from their sixth studio album, ‘A Crime For All Seasons’, this single is a bit slower, with a heavier intro before the guitar kicks in. It’s a psychedelic, groovy, creepy, druggy haze. It’s not a great song, but it’s edgier, partly because of a greater guitar presence. I like the sound; it’s more industrial.
The video shows the band in costumes (many in drag), wandering about on a beach and also performing a concert. It looks like hallucination, which should mesh with the song, and yet it doesn’t work somehow. It’s a really trashy video. 6.75/3.0
11. Hard, Fast and Beautiful: This song is culled from the remix album ‘Dirty Little Secrets’, which was released in 1999. Honestly, I’m not aware of a non-remix version of this song; as far as I know it was first introduced on this compilation. Anyway, it begins with waves of synthesizers washing in, then it kicks into a dance number with a soul chorus. There are fun keyboard bleeps and bloops and a fast beat.
The video consists of a series of nightlife shots (city streets, people in a club, people playing pool, …etc.) and live concert footage. It ends with TKK hitching a ride on the highway in the morning light. Meh. 7.0/5.0
The rest of the set consists of live material, most of which seems to be from the same concert. The date(s) and location(s) aren’t indicated anywhere on the DVD, so it’s quite possible that the footage is from different concerts on the same tour.
What doesn’t help ascertain this is that the footage is put together in a haphazard sort of way, with incessant quick cuts, and the insertion of footage from various grindhouse films – sometimes in between the footage, sometimes blended in.
Essentially, it gives the viewer even less of a sense of the band’s stage show than the Juno Reactor DVD did. Having said this, it’s nonetheless a thoroughly entertaining presentation – at no point was I bored watching these flashes of images.
For this tour, TKK were fronted by what looked like male and female leads, a bass player, a guitarist, a live drummer, a keyboardist, and a background singer/dancer. It’s hard to say exactly, given that there are few static shots.
The performers all have their own style, but the two singers are all in black leather, with wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. The stage is medium-sized and features what looks to be the sports car from ‘Hit and Run Holiday’ album cover on the dais behind the singers.
Clearly this is from the ‘Hit and Run Holiday’ tour, but I’m surprised because the set is more of a groovy affair, with a lot of go-go inspired stuff. It’s more akin to what TKK were doing in the early 2000s – the period I like best, actually. Sounds like I may have to revisit this album.
Nota bene: Understandably, given the ADD-addled nature of the footage, there’s not much for me to comment on.
12. Hit and Run Holiday (Live): The 1995 album’s title track is an intriguing choice as an opener, being a slower, groovier number with lots of horns. 7.5
13. Glamour is a Rocky Road (Live): Not sure why, but I much preferred this live rendition than the single version. I didn’t compare the two, but perhaps the arrangements were different for this tour. Or may it’s just the mix itself. Anyway, it’s a high-tempo track with an organ-like keyboard backing and surf guitar. 7.75
14. Portrait of the Damned (Live): This one starts with a deep bass groove. It’s basically like some sort of sleazy r&b/soul, with lots of “horns” (i.e. pre-recorded brass). 7.25
15. Apollo 69 (Live): This track doesn’t show up on the back of the case, but it’s on the menu. This is faster, with a rock edge and with a ’60s go-go thing going for it. It’s hot stuff, total party music. It’s hard to imagine that these guys are considered industrial when you watch this. The video inserts for this one consists of lots of psychedelic images and ’60s stuff. 8.0
16. Chemical Cop-Out (Live): This uptempo drug-themed song is backed by a lot of female vocals. It’s pretty good. 7.25
17. Babylon Drifter (Live): This one’s got a go-go music vibe, with a good beat, lots of horns and the female singer on lead. 8.0
18. Golden Strip (Live): Also a go-go style piece, this one features Mann on lead with the female on support. It has a prominent piano base and some guitars. 7.75
19. The Doris Love Club (Live): This is yet another drug-themed song. It’s a slow, groovy, piano-driven number. 7.5
20. Hot Blood Risin’ (Live): This one starts with a guitar riff and a growl from Mann, before kicking into a dance beat with horns. Both singers are featured here. 8.0
21. Blue Buddha (Live): This number is taken from a completely different show at a different club, for what looks like a totally different tour and line-up. It’s on a small stage, and everyone is cramped. This is a really slow groove and I just don’t like it – whether it be live or studio. Plus it’s a poor edit that fades out abruptly. 4.0
22. My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult: Before they were a band, Buzz McCoy and Groovie Mann were going to shoot a low-budget exploitation film called ‘My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult’ (a title they picked up from a British tabloid). It was never completed, but some online resources suggest that this 13-minute short film is a montage of some of that footage.
Honestly, although I looked around a fair bit, I can’t substantiate this whatsoever. But I can confirm that, despite all accounts, this short is actually called ‘Sexplosion’ (according to its own credits, even if the DVD’s menu and box art suggest otherwise). This may have been a promotional short for the 1991 album of the same name. Who knows.
Either way, it’s an ultra-low budget pastiche that introduces each band member as a character in some sort of grindhouse picture. It’s like a lengthy and crappy trailer, with each member playing a caricature of themselves. The acting sucks, the audio is terrible, and it’s cobbled together really poorly. It’s more of an amusing home movie than anything else.
But it does feature a lot of excerpts of their music on the soundtrack (International Sin Set, Leathersex, Mystery Babylon, Sex On Wheels, Mood No. 6, Dream Baby), so it can be fun for fans and the curious alike. It would be nice to have a sense of its context but, failing that, it’s still an amusing little slice of weirdness from TKK. 6.0
The set ends with a series of credits titled “Stripper’s Only” (sic), which, for some reason, is also listed as part of the programme.
There’s not much else on this disc, however: there are no extras. But I suspect that, with a band like TKK, there’s probably not a treasure trove of video out there. Let’s face it: it’s not like they have a fortune or a supportive label to produce such material.
There is a video that’s missing, apparently. I wouldn’t have known, but another reviewer mentioned a short for “Final Blindness”, taken from ’13 Above the Night’, and speculated that it might have been omitted for copyright reasons, because of all the film clips in it.
But, all in all, my thought is that this is as complete a collection as My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult fans are ever going to get. And could ever dare hope for. I may not be the biggest fan myself, but I think that it’s a good package and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
No matter how “dangerous” they are.
Ultimately, I was as pleased as I could be with what I saw and heard. It’s all very low budget and kind of sleazy (hardly surprising, given that much of their inspiration comes from exploitation films), but My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult do have their moments.
Enough so that I dug up my old albums, truth be told. I started from my most recent, ‘Gay, Black and Married’ and proceeded to ‘Diamonds and Daggerz’, one of my favourites. I have no doubt that I will make my way back to their earlier works too.
It’s the days of swine and roses all over again.
Dates of viewings: October 29 and November 5, 2014